Socially there are these unspoken rules about being a man. Dr. Christopher Kilmartin states that “cultural masculinity is a set of gender pressures placed on males”. According to Robert Brannon the “rules” of masculinity are:
• “No sissy stuff” – avoid feminine behaviors.
• “Be a big wheel” – strive for status and achievement, especially in sports and work.
• “Be a male machine” – solve problems without help, maintain emotional self-control at all times, and never show weakness to anybody.
• “Give ‘em hell” – take physical risks and be violent if necessary.
The above rules illustrate that there are socialized gender pressures faced by men. Sometimes an individual man does not feel gender pressure to follow these rules. Oftentimes the social pressures of cultural masculinity shames men into following these rules e.g. “Man up”, “Don’t be a sissy or girl”. Often the language used to remind men of the rules of masculinity are much harsher than those phrases. I believe healthy masculinity is about allowing men the freedom to break these rules without judgement.
1. When will it be socially acceptable for men to break these rules of masculinity without being called out?
2. If you identify as man do you either feel pressure to follow these rules or the freedom to break these rules?
Last week the New York Times published an article “The Bro Hug: Embracing a Change in Custom”. It was a bit humorist and not very serious yet it raised a core aspect about masculinity. This core component of masculinity is the idea that men (particularly straight-identified men) cannot show affection towards one another. Here is a short excerpt from the article:
***The 2009 book “Don’t Be That Guy,” by the humorist Colin Nissan and the illustrator Sean Farrell, provides in a few hundred words a veritable Magna Carta of straight male hugging. “When I get married, feel free to throw your arms around me,” Mr. Nissan writes. “When I have a child, by all means, wrap me into your chest. These are milestones that warrant such a gesture of affection. When I come over for poker, however, don’t. Don’t you dare.”
The above excerpt illustrates that there are very few socially acceptable times when men can express affection. Another example of this masculine policing includes the term ‘bromance’. It seems that men are socialized to both limit their emotional expression and to label any affection between one another as rare and unique hence using the word bro as a placeholder.
- When will we allow men in close relationship to just be considered very good friends instead of having a bromance?
- If you identify as a man do you consider it a bro hug when you embrace your best friend, your brother, your uncle, you father or grandfather?
The MAVRIC Project wants to continue the conversation about what healthy masculinity looks like. Almost everyone on campus has had a conversation about masculinity, manhood or what it means to be a man. These conversations are already happening all the time and everywhere on campus. People are having the conversation in locker rooms, in res colleges, in departments and on the street. It just takes two to have a MAVRIC conversation. So join us at dinnertime, lunch time, late meal or wherever on campus to participate in a conversation.
In the video below boys and men respond to the phrase “Be a Man”. There is brief coarse language but the message is powerful. What are your thoughts about the phrase “Be a Man”?
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